St. Catherine's



St. John's


HISTORY OF THE PARISH - updated 6th August 2022

The parish consists of St. John's church, Brandon and St. Catherine's church, New Brancepeth .
The Parish Priest in charge is Revd. Carl Peters who began his ministry in the Parish on 15th July 2014

Part of this history was based on 'A History of St. John's Church, Brandon' which was compiled by the late Mr. Jack Birtle

St Brandon's Church at Brancepeth was the Parish Church for a large area until the mid 1800's. The coal mining area was then developed and many communities and villages were established causing the population to increase rapidly. From the Patronage of the Rector of Brancepeth, four daughter churches were established. First was St Catherine's at Crook, in 1845, then St Stephen's at Willington in 1858, St John's at Brandon in 1875 and St Paul's at Waterhouses in 1879. Sadly the beautiful Church of St Brandon was destroyed by fire on 16th September 1998. It is currently undergoing restoration work. Brandon Parish was formed in 1875 when it was taken out of the ancient Parish of Brancepeth. It comprised the vilages of Langley Moor, Littleburn, Meadowfield, Browney, Brandon Colliery, Brandon Village and Sleetburn.
St John's Church was built on a site in Meadowfield which was donated by Lord Boyne who lived at Brancepeth Castle. It consisted of a nave, chancel and a small vestry built of good stone in an early perpendicular style. There was room for 400 people and it was built at a cost of £4,173.
The Bishop of Durham (W. Baring.) held the Consecration Service on St John's Day, December 27th, 1875 and the first services were taking place during 1876. The church was not then known as the Parish Church, but as a District Chapelry. It was not registered as a Parish Church until December 1877. Father Joseph Lawson who had been ordained in 1871 and was Curate at Brancepeth, became the first Vicar of the parish. A Vicarage was built halfway up Brandon Hill, a Victorian house chosen by Father Lawson with a mortgage of £600. The living, which was a gift from the Rector of Brancepeth (Arthur Shafto) was for £300 per year.
During 1881 a faculty was sought for a church organ. Harrison and Harrison built the organ which was completed for Ash Wednesday 1882 at a cost of £245. The same organ is still in use today.
As the parish grew, St Catherine's church was built in New Brancepeth (Sleetburn). The church was dedicated on September 11th 1890 by Bishop Westcott and Father Arnott was the first Curate.
In 1893, St Agatha's Mission Church was opened in Brandon. This was the idea of Canon Body, The Church was consecrated by Bishop Westcott and it’s first Curate was Father Sykes. At about the same time a house was found to rent in Cobden Terrace for the Curate. The annual rent was £10. Cobden Terrace was a fine terrace built near the top of the Colliery rows. Father Lawson retired on April 3rd 1903 to live at Shincliffe. He died in December 1903 and was buried in Brandon Village Cemetery. The Cemetery and Chapel were opened in 1863 before the Parish Church.
A new Vicar, Father Walter Ransome was instituted on July 25th 1903, by the Bishop of Durham, Dr Moule. The Vicar had come from the slums of East London and was so popular on Sunday evenings that the congregation needed to arrive early to ensure that they would have a seat. Additional room needed to be found so the North aisle was added. The pulpit was moved to the South position and the Lecturn was moved to it's position beside the center pillar. The church was re-roofed, a new Choir Vestry erected and a new heating system installed. A new step was added to the Sanctuary for a new Holy Table, repositioning the pulpit and the font. The Nave had a new floor fitted and the organ was restored at a cost of £130 which was a princely sum in those days. To help with the costs, William Ellis, the Assistant Organist of Durham Cathedral gave a recital. A consecration of the alterations was performed on July 27th 1905 by assistant Bishop Hodges. Lord Boyne and his family attended with several priests, after which a celebration lunch was held in the Brancepeth Hotel, Meadowfield. The Vicar conducted many outdoor services, which were popular with the congregation, but were very unpopular with others. He introduced vestments and weekday Masses. The Vicar however, decided he had a call to become a missionary and in October 1906 he resigned and went out to Zanzibar.

On December 22nd 1906 Father Harry Hayward was instituted by the Archdeacon, the Venerable W. Watkins D.D.A. The Bishop of Durham, Dr Moule, opened a cemetery at Meadowfield on September 19th 1907. A Church Hall was proposed and 1508 square yards of land adjourning the Church grounds was rented for the sum of 5/-per year from the Church Commissioners and in 1911 the Parochial Hall was built.
The First World War broke out in 1914 and in 1916 Father Hayward joined the forces in France where he served as a Padre. He returned to the Parish in 1919. The Senior Assistant Curate Father O. Burrows was in charge of the Parish whilst Father Hayward served in France.
In 1920 the Vicar became British Legion Chaplain and War Memorials were installed in the Parish Church - brass plates naming those who had given their lives to their country. (During the war one of the Curates, Father Dickinson was killed in France.) Father Ransome, who had been in a German internment camp, was released due to his ill health. He died on the way back to Zanzibar on November 19th, 1916. Later, two wooden standard candlesticks were dedicated to his memory. They are still in use today - one in St Johns and the other in St Catherine's. A stained glass window depicting the four Gospel writers and their symbols replaced the plain east window. St. Matthew is depicted as a man, St. Mark as a lion, St. Luke as a calf, St. John as an eagle and Christ as a pelican on her nest feeding the young. A wrought iron Chancel screen was also added at that time. The chancel rails and gate which depict the Greek letters Alpha and Omega were installed as a memorial to the men who died in the First World War.
Father Hayward was admired by all in the Parish. He was Chairman of the Urban Council, a Freemason and took great interest in the events of the time. His wife died in May 1928 and Father Hayward died shortly after in October 1928.

The new Vicar, Father Ernest Francis Tallents was instituted on May 10th, 1929 by Herbert Henry Henson, the Bishop of Durham. Father Tallents was a quiet man of Anglo-Catholic faith. He left in 1934 to administer to a small village church at Bossal near York.
On the 15th of June, 1934 Father George Halstead Greenfield was instituted by the Bishop of Durham and inducted by the Bishop of Jarrow who was the Archdeacon of Durham. Fr. Greenfield was not so interested in the Catholic tradition but more for the music of the church. He sought and found an academically trained organist. Ambrose Hillery was his choice and the church had the pleasure of an excellent choir singing anthems etc at Evensongs.
During October, 1938 the church was given a faculty to remove the Dorsal Curtains which had been situated on either side of the High Altar and were attached to the wall. Four of the six brass candlesticks were also removed, the existing lighting was replace with floodlights and five pews were removed from the north-west corner to make way for a children's corner. Those five pews were rearranged to face the Font. All the old pictures were removed. The Alter frontals were removed and the reredos (the ornamental screen behind the altar) varnished. Sung Eucharist and Sung Matins were introduced on alternate Sundays.
At the outbreak of World War 2 broke out in 1939 Father Greenfield was appointed Chief Air warden for Brandon and the Army commandeered the Parochial Hall. At the same time there were various youth groups, a strong Church Lads Brigade and Mothers Union led by Mrs Greenfield who all had to make alternate arrangements.

During the Second World War the organist, Mr Hillery served in the R.A.F. and was re-employed in August 1946 with a salary of £50 per annum. The Church had several accomplished organists during the war years. One was a Mr Brockhill who left to become organist at Newcastle Cathedral.
At that time the organ was blown by hand, however after the war an electric blower was fitted.

On July 4th 1942 tragedy struck St Catherine's when two boys lit candles and set fire to the Church destroying the fabric completely. The only thing saved was the bell which had originally came from a shipwreck. Whilst the fire blazed our Vicar attempted to save some of the contents and was injured. He received treatment at the County Hospital which at that time was the Accident and Emergency Hospital. St Catherine's congregation moved into the Church Hall which became the lovely Church which is in use now. The famous bell is still there.
During 1947, the running of St Catherine's was moved out of the Parish and became part of Ushaw Moor parish, but returned in 1962. After the end of the Second World War the army moved out of the Church Hall, and with several grants awarded to the Church the Hall was renovated. It was painted and stage and window curtains were renewed. The Church Lads Brigade benefited from sports equipment and a Bugle and Drums band was formed. The band was reported to awaken the whole of Meadowfield from their beds on a Sunday morning! Father Greenfield left the Parish in early 1949. He died on April 27th 1987 at Salcombe in Devon.
Father W.E. Wright was Rector of Brancepeth at the time of Father Greenfield's retirement. He had trained at St Chad's Durham and one of his friends was Father John Newman Ellwood. He came to Brandon and was inducted Vicar of Brandon on May 12th, 1949. Father Ellwood brought a more Catholic tradition with more ritual and ceremony. Fr. Ellwood lived in the Vicarage with his schoolteacher sister. He immediately restored the Altar frontals, the six big candles and the Paschal candle. He also brought his own copes in different colours for different seasons and were draped around his shoulders during Benediction and processions. The servers changed from wearing cassocks to wearing albs. During 1952, he altered part of the Vicarage by dividing part of it into a separate house and cottage at a cost of £220.

As the mines closed and the population moved on it was decided, in 1956, that St. Agatha's would close. The altar was brought to St Johns where it formed a Lady Chapel in the North Aisle. The beautiful wooden eagle lectern and some of the books were brought to St. Johns, as was the font. Until that time all masses were at the High Altar. These additions from St Agatha's enabled the priest to use the Lady Chapel when the choir was not present. The schoolhouse and hall at Brandon Village was sold during 1958.
Changes in the area resulted in part of the Church grounds (624.3 square yards) being sold to Brandon Urban District Council to make a road into the new trading estate in 1966. Shortly after in March 1969, the stone pulpit in St John's was in need of repair and the Vicar purchased a wooden pulpit from the redundant Church of St Mary-le-Bow in Durham City. He still visited his old St Chad's College where he had trained their boat crew and was an official at the Durham Regattas. After St Agatha's closed in 1956, he continued to serve the two remaining churches in the Parish, often travelling by public transport. After the death of his sister his own health diminished; however he carried on his duties as he particularly wanted to serve twenty-five years in this Parish. He was 75 years old when he retired on the 12th May 1974. He retired to Cheshire where he died on All Souls Day in 1974 and was buried in a family grave at Lower Peover, the parish he had lived in prior to arriving at Brandon. The next 15 months were very dark times for Brandon. There was no Vicar and during this interregnum, negotiations took place in which the main topic for discussion was possibly closing St John's and using the old Vicarage (which was for sale) as a Community Centre for services and meetings. . However, a public meeting was held with the Pastoral Committee and the decision was made to give the parishioners time to improve the church fabric and make the building stable.
The position improved when, at last, a new priest was appointed and on September 3rd, 1975 the Bishop of Durham, the Right Rev. John Habgood, inducted Father Michael Bootes O.G.S. He had been Chaplain at East Grinstead and was a man of many talents. At his first curacy he had also been in charge of music. He arrived into the Parish with his mother and their first home was the old Vicarage cottage as the new vicarage (now the Clergy House) was being built in the southern part of the Old Vicarage grounds. This had been sited there at Father Ellwood's request. The P.C.C. had been against this decision as they had wanted the new house in the church grounds at Meadowfield. However the Diocese decided to use part of the Old Vicarage grounds. The Old Vicarage was then sold for £16,000. After three or four months the new Vicarage was ready and Father Bootes moved in. During the short time Father Bootes was in Brandon, he organised fund raising events with the help of the P.C.C. which resulted in a new heating system for the Church and the roof was repaired. The Church Hall was repainted and repaired, and an organ restoration fund started. His singing was a great asset to the choir who gave choral recitals to raise money for the organ fund. Sadly, at the same time vandals were at work in the Village Cemetery and mining subsidence was causing the perimeter walls next to the road to become dangerous. It was decided to apply to Queens Counsel to close it; this was granted and the cemetery was closed to new burials in June 1982. However the graves can still be visited and at this moment (2001) the City Council is carrying out extensive repairs to the Cemetery. After only three years Father Bootes left the Parish and became Chaplain and teacher in a Public School at Hove.
The church organ was overhauled in 1978 by Harrison's and was dedicated to Fr Ellwood for his twenty-five years service to the Parish. This was the wish of the organist, Ambrose Hillery, and a small plaque on the organ commemorates this event. The organ was also overhauled in 1990. Ambrose Hillery, the organist was a very talented organist and also composed his own music. His music is still sang as an accompaniment to "The Lord's My Shepherd" and gives everyone great pleasure.
In 1979 the congregation had their first experience of the Company of Mission Priests. (C.M.P.) when Father Robert Stretton was inducted as the eighth Vicar. This was to be his first parish as a Vicar. He carried on the same Anglo-Catholic traditions. He encouraged members of the congregation to purchase individual Stations of the Cross at a cost of £50 per station in memory of their departed loved ones. These are used during Lent. Father Robert was very fond of the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham in Norfolk, and in memory of his late father purchased the hand carved statue of Our Lady of Walsingham which is in the church.and he started the annual pilgrimage to Walsingham. Later, an anonymous donor was to give a statue of St John the Evangelist to the Church. The present Tabernacle, which holds the Blessed Sacrament for the sick and is on a stand next to the Lady Chapel Altar, was also another gift. Votive candles came into use.
In 1981 Father Robert as he was known, led a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Father Robert liked to walk around the Parish, meeting everyone whether churchgoer or not. Everyone was surprised when he announced that he was leaving to join the Society of The Sacred Mission. He said that he had thought about his calling and had finally been accepted by Father Edmund Wheat, who opened the Priory of St Anthony in Durham.
Father Robert had arranged for the confirmation services to take place at Epiphany and his last service at St John's took place a week later on January 13th, 1985. The next Vicar came from South Africa; Father Beverley Johnson who was inducted on May 30th, 1985. He had been ordained in Capetown before travelling to England. He had been Curate at Redhouse, Sunderland and Vicar of Waterhouses before moving to Bournmoor, then to Brandon. Apparently, Father Johnson had always envied this Parish and intended to stay at Brandon until he retired. However the plan was changed after he was given the opportunity to go to Australia. He left Brandon on May 28th, 1989. The Parish then had a year's interregnum and the Benefice of the Parish was suspended. As there was no Rector of Brancepeth the Patronage of the Parish passed to the Lord Bishop of Durham. On May 29th, 1990 two C.M.P. priests from St Anthony's Newcastle were appointed and licensed to the Parish by the Bishop of Durham. Father Brian Godsell was to be Priest-in-Charge and Father Peter Brown was to be Assistant Priest.
Changes were introduced. Some of the congregation were sceptical at first about the use of incense but they became accustomed to it's use.
Since these most recent priests arrived and started their Ministry in Brandon, the Parish has become more alive and the congregation has grown. Father Peter's work with the children of our community and schools make the church and the children have a bond for the future. The children and schools are encouraged to visit the church and become familiar with the building and the Services. In November, 1992 the Church of England Synod voted on the ordination of women to the priesthood. The vote was passed by a narrow margin. This had caused unrest in parts of the Church of England, and when the Bishops began to ordain women in 1994, an organisation called "Forward in Faith" was set up to cater for those who were strongly against the ordination of women. The Parish P.C.C. passed Resolutions A and B which does not allow women priests to say mass in this Parish. Brandon Parish joined "Forward in Faith" and for the spiritual needs the Provincial Bishop of Beverley tends to their needs.
The work of restoring and renovation still goes on. The Church Hall and Church were repainted in 1993 and in the same year work on the organ was completed. The Church has had more renovations and additions. A long awaited ramp for the disabled has been added to the main entrance, a beautiful porch which helps keep out the cold weather has been added also cupboards and a toilet. Bishop John of Beverley blessed these on May 21st 1997.
The Parish has an annual pilgrimage to Walsingham every June. There have also been other pilgrimages to the Holy Land, Rome and Assisi and Lourdes. On the 26th June, 1994 the Benefice was restored to the Parish after 4 years when Father Brian was licensed in Auckland Castle by the Bishop of Durham as Vicar of the Parish. He was installed in his seat in the church by the Archdeacon of Durham the following Sunday. In 2001, Fr. Peter was made Honorary Canon of Durham Cathedral. This was the first occasion that a serving priest from the parish had been so
honoured. Fr. Brian retired in September 2005 and after a short inrterregnum, Fr. Peter Brown was inducted as the new vicar on Friday 20th December, 2006.
The priests worked tirelessly in the community dealing with many problems; not only from the congregation but also from many members of the general public who have great confidence in them. No one was ever turned away and the Parish was grateful for their gentle care.
Fr. Peter retired as Parish Priest on 31st August 2012 . Fr Brian passed away on Thursday 6th September 2012.
Following Fr. Peter Brown's retirement, the Parish voted to return to the Anglican style of Worship, rescinded Resulutions A&B and are now under the care of the Bishop of Durham.
St. John's church hall was destroyed by a fire on 23rd March 2014 after being a Church hall for the community since 1911. Fundraising began to rebuild the hall with the help of various local organisations, including the Royal British Legion. Work began on the rebuild on 14th August 2018 and is due to be completed in March 2019.
Revd. Carl Peters began his ministry in the Parish on 15th July 2014. In 2018, it was decided that a new heating system in the church was becoming a priority. Fund was started and the money was soon raised to install the heating which is a vast improvement on the old system. St. John’s held a Celebration Weekend on 6th & 7th October 2018 to celebrate the completion of the church heating project and the Harvest Festival.
Saturday 20th July, the Mayor of Durham, Cllr. Katie Corrigan, officially opened St Johns Hall Meadowfield. Many thanks to everyone who has been a part of the fundraising, build and organization to re-build your fantastic community facility.
A special thanks goes to the
wonderful Lesley Baxter. Without her ongoing and tireless work this entire project simply would not have been possible


9th October 2020 -Services started again at St. John’s church on July 5th. then services start at St. Catherine’s from Sunday 13th September. The Eucharist services to be shorter than normal with no singing or sermon and as with other Covid 19 problems, this may be subject to change, especially when the winter flu season begins
6th August 2022 - Brandon Parish and Ushaw Moor Parish have been joined by St. Paul's, Waterhouses meaning that Fr. Carl now has 4 churches and 3 PCC's to be responsible for. This is a direct consequence of the church of England not having enough priests to carry on as it has done in past years. Lack of finance also means that Parishes have not been able to contribute as much to the Parish share.


Previously called Sleetburn, New Brancepeth is a former colliery village 2 miles North west of Ushaw moor. In 1890, the population of Brandon parish had grown rapidly with the opening of the Coal mines so it was decided to build a daughter Church at New Brancepeth. This was built in a field in the south-west of the village and the land was given by Lord Boyne. The old church was erected as a Chapel of Ease to St. John the Evangelist church at Brandon. It was built of stone in the Gothic style and consisted of a nave, chancel, transepts, 2 vestries and a small western tower with 1 bell. It was a fine stone building to seat a congregation of two hundred and fifty two and cost £2000. The subscribers were New Brancepeth Coal Co. - £500; Ecclesiastical Commissioners - £500; The Bishop's Fund - £200; Rev. A.D. Shaftoe of Brancepeth - £100. The lectern was a gift from the Countess Boyne and the carved pulpit was a gift from the villagers. A great deal of the furnishings were provided by Mr. Cochrane a Coal-owner of Eshwood Hall, who had his own private road constructed from his residence to the Church. The Church was dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria and it was consecrated on September 11th.1890, by Bishop Westcott. The first curate was Fr. Arnott It was part of the Parish of St. John's, Brandon under Fr. Lawson the Vicar.
On July 4th 1942, lit candles in the Church set fire to the fabric, destroying the church completely. The only thing salvaged was the church bell: it was said this bell came from a ship-wreck given by Mr. C. White of Eshwood Street. The bell was transferred to the Mission Hall which is now St. Catherine's present Church.
In 1947 the Church was transferred into the Parish of Ushaw Moor but after 15 years Fr. Ellwood negotiated for St. Catherine's to be returned to the Parish of Brandon where it belonged under the Vicar of Brandon.
The last clergy were Parish Priest Canon Peter Brown and assistant priest Fr. Brian Godsell, They had the help of reader Liz.
Fr. Peter retired as Parish Priest on 31st August 2012 . Fr Brian passed away on Thursday 6th September 2012.
2014 Revd. Carl Peters began his ministry in the Parish on 15th July 2014.
Following a year of fund-raising, work on a new roof over the porch, kitchen and vestry began in July 2014 and finished in May 2016 (see webpage).
2016 - Lunch Clubs started in November 2016 on a monthly basis which have proved to be popular. People can get a good meal and some form of entertainment or a speaker each month.
2018 - The original chimney over the boiler house was removed in September 2018 and the interior of the church where damp had seeped through was decorated in June 2018.
2019 - St. Catherine’s Church Shed Replacement Project. The old storage shed behind the church built mainly from asbestos was in bad repair so it was decided to replace it with a modern shed which would be adequate for the church’s storage needs thus removing a health hazard from the grounds, and so allow the area to be used for other activities, such as summer fayres or children’s play activities. Omega Asbestos Consulting was consulted, surveyed the shed and gave a quotation of £4154.88 to remove it, together with the flooring and any material likely to be contaminated with asbestos. A Faculty was obtained from the Diocese which has been approved by the DAC, and a public notice was displayed until 2nd February 2019. Grants were applied for. The total of grants and donations received was £5,750 towards the estimated total of £6,436. The old shed was emptied with tablles & chairs put in the boiler house. A few other items were put into the church. A skip arrived on 26th February for all other items in the shed and the shed was ready for demolition. The contractors demolished the shed and removed all the asbestos on 27th & /28th March. Spring Drives laid a new base on 4th April and Durham Timber erected the new shed on 6th May 2019.

2020 - When the church closed due to the Covid19 pandemic in March 2020, the roof was replaced. New slates at the front of the church and recycled slates at the rear. Services started at St. Catherine’s from Sunday 13th September.
9th October 2020 - The Eucharist services were shorter than normal with no singing or sermon and as with other Covid 19 problems, this was subject to change, especially when the winter flu season begins

2023 - The main doors of the church were made good and varnished in July/August

St. Catherine’s Patronal Festival falls each year on November 25th.